Mental health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety and bipolar can be highly debilitating. Due to a lack of awareness of these types of illnesses, employers can often judge those who experience them as ‘attention seeking’, ‘pessimistic’ or causing a negative work environment.

By Ramiza Mohammed

It is a misconception that a disability is easy to spot and that therefore the obligations on an employer are self-evident. ‘Invisible disabilities’, including those related to mental health are often the most difficult to spot. In many of the cases I have dealt with, the employee will often keep their struggle quiet because either they are embarrassed or scared they will be treated differently. You don’t want people to say you’re ‘not right in the head’. Equally, employers are frustrated at the breakdown of a relationship with their employee and struggle to understand where the communication has broken down. As awareness around mental health grows and the world begins to tackle the stigma attached to this type of disability, let’s have a look at how you can help yourself in breaking the barriers presented by the current state of affairs.

Spot the signs early
As an employee, you may not wish to draw attention to how you feel and the impact this has on your day-to-day life. Break this barrier. Embrace yourself and how you approach tasks. Educate others on this and show them that this does not make you less capable. You will have strengths where others have weaknesses.
As an employer, don’t be so quick to judge a person or assume your concerns are simply incompetence. Review the employee’s behaviours and spot the signs early. Train staff to look out for common patterns. Don’t follow the trend, be the trend.

Be upfront – communicate
How can an employer know something is wrong and even more so how can they assist you if you are not direct about what you need? An employer may consider there to be a lack of competency or assume there is a lack of engagement if they are unaware that there is an underlying issue. It is important to know that the obligations on an employer to provide you support and to cater for any impairment only kicks in if they have ‘reasonable knowledge’. Failing to be upfront and providing the employer the information they request regarding your health concerns will set you up for failure.

Assist your employer in gaining an understanding of the disability you have and how it affects you. How does it stop you from performing day-to-day activities? Agree to attend their specialist occupational health provider or providing them the information and advice from your own GP/medical practitioner to ensure that they are fully equipped to assess any adjustments they could reasonably consider for you.

Become confident in your own ability.
By breaking these barriers and seeking the right assistance, you may even surprise yourself having ensured that your performance excels. You will now be more likely to be happier at work, build better and stronger relations with your colleagues and retain your role within the organisation you work for. Your employer and colleagues will be grateful to you for addressing it and guiding them on how to help.

Get in touch – we can help.
Employers – contact for a review of your policy, procedures and your training needs.
Employees – contact for an initial free confidential consultation.

Thanks to MM Legal for this article.